I get asked all the time what beginner photographers need to maximize their success when they take photos.
That's sort of a loaded question, though, given that there seems to be a virtually endless supply of photography accessories, gadgets, and gizmos available today.
That being said, a lot of the accessories on the market aren't what I would call absolute necessities...
Assuming that you already have a camera and a lens, I've got three must-have accessories that will complete your kit and enable you to pursue photography as a more prepared photographer.
Part of the difficulty of learning photography is that there's just so much to learn.
I know when I was just starting out, I was constantly overwhelmed trying to remember what each mode on my camera did or how to get the exposure settings just right or how to calculate hyperfocal distance.
In other words, it took me a long, long time to master the basic and advanced knowledge I needed to advance my photography.
But we live in a day and age in which we can use technology to help advance our understanding of photography, thereby speeding up the learning process all the while taking better photos.
That endeavor is made possible by Arsenal, the world's first AI photography assistant. Meet Arsenal in the video below:
Arsenal uses artificial intelligence to determine the best settings for a photo in any situation.
It does this by searching thousands upon thousands of images in the Arsenal database to get a set of suggested camera settings. From there, Arsenal analyzes 18 different factors to get the best shot.
So, where other gadgets help with camera settings and others help with image stabilization and others help with determining depth of field, Arsenal does it all - and more.
In addition to helping you nail the settings for a still photo, Arsenal allows you to stack photos in-camera. That means that if you want a photo that's got a deep depth of field, Arsenal will lead the way, taking several exposures and blending them together for a final shot that's in focus from front to back.
What's more, Arsenal allows you to tackle long exposure photography, all without buying expensive filters. You can even take time-lapse videos, too.
But Arsenal isn't just a gadget that does everything on your behalf. Instead, you can use it to learn more about photography.
For example, you can inspect the settings that are used to get each shot so you can develop a clearer idea of what settings to use in what situations.
Furthermore, you can control your camera's settings wirelessly from the Arsenal smartphone app. That means you can control things like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and see how your adjustments impact the final images in real-time with the live preview on your smartphone.
Think of Arsenal as the ultimate photography device that teaches you how to be a better photographer. What's not to like about that?
When it comes to improving the sharpness of your photos, there's really no better accessory to use than a tripod.
Think about it - mounted to a stable tripod, your camera has the secure base it needs to render tack-sharp photos.
This isn't to say that it's impossible to get sharp photos without a tripod, but having your camera out of your hand and on a tripod will certainly help.
Not only does a tripod help prevent camera shake and enable you to use longer exposure times in low-light shooting situations, but it also forces you to slow down a little bit when you take photos.
Even just the few extra seconds it takes you to set up the tripod is enough to help you think a little more purposefully about how you want to approach the shot. That's true whether you're photographing people, animals, landscapes, or something in between.
After all, a little patience and concentration will go a long way in improving your photos.
Additionally, a tripod enables you to explore new areas of photography that would otherwise be impossible.
Long exposures, time-lapse videos, astrophotography, panoramas...you name it, a tripod makes it easier to take higher-quality shots, particularly when you use Arsenal and a tripod together!
For beginners, a solid, yet lightweight tripod like the Sirui T-1005X is a good choice because it's a full sized tripod that folds down to an impossibly small size, which is great for traveling, landscape photography, or even quick shots of the kids playing sports.
What's more, it's worth looking for a tripod that allows you to take on low-angle photography, so look for one with a center column that can be inverted to get extra low to the ground.
You also want to keep an eye out for multi-position leg angles. That's a helpful feature so you can still get your camera nice and level even if the terrain isn't.
Essentially, when looking for a tripod, you want something robust yet lightweight, feature-packed yet not too expensive. You'd be surprised just how much your photos might improve once you start using a tripod!
A Camera Bag
Of course, you need something to carry your gear around, and making sure that your bag is specifically designed for carrying camera gear is an absolute must.
I see far too many beginning photographers use any old bag or backpack for transporting their gear, and it makes me cringe.
It's just not a safe, secure way to carry delicate camera gear. Trust me, I should know because I did the very same thing when I started out!
You don't want your gear jostling around in a big pile in your bag. Instead, you want it nice and snug in a camera bag where there's bumpers to separate each component and padded walls to prevent damage from bumps along the way.
Something like the Vanguard Havana 33 Messenger Bag shown above and below is a great beginner bag because it's well-built, versatile, and inexpensive to boot.
Inside, you'll find room for a DSLR with lens attached, additional space for another lens, a flash, and various other camera accessories, including a 13-inch laptop. Plus, you see those padded dividers and walls I mentioned above...
There's also dedicated pockets for things like camera cleaning supplies, money, car keys, and so forth. The interior is also lightly colored so it's easier to find what you're looking for. Those are must-have interior features if you ask me.
Outside, the bag has a padded shoulder strap for comfortable carrying, two water bottle pockets for long days out shooting, and an integrated rain cover to keep your gear dry.
Something else to think about is getting a transformable bag so you can use it as an everyday messenger bag too. It also doesn't hurt to have a bag that doesn't look like a camera bag, that way you can keep would-be thieves at bay.
When it comes down to it, there's a lot to consider in a camera bag - functionality, comfort, and aesthetics among them. But whatever type of camera bag you choose, just be sure that it is big enough for your current needs and has room to accommodate your growth as a photographer for years to come.
Learning how to take better photos means dedicating yourself to actually taking photos and equipping yourself with gear that makes better photos more likely.
As you learned earlier, Arsenal is certainly a photographer's tool that can help you take control of your creative vision to create some stunning photos and videos.
Add to that a solid tripod, and you've got what you need to create tack-sharp images each time you go out to shoot.
Of course, a camera bag isn't going to help you take a better photo per se, but it will sure help prevent your gear from getting damaged. After all, if your gear is broken, you won't be taking any photos at all!